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South Africa: Constitutional Court Ruling A Victory for Accountability
In response to a unanimous, highly critical ruling issued by the Constitutional Court finding that President Jacob Zuma and the National Assembly were required to obey orders by the Public Protector that the president pay for improvements to his private residence, Freedom House issues the following statement:
“Freedom House believes the Constitutional Court’s decision marks a significant victory for accountability, by reaffirming the powers of the Public Protector,” said Paul Graham, project director for Southern Africa. “A stronger Public Protector can lead to stronger to anti-corruption efforts and stop the erosion of basic rights for South Africans. The Constitutional Court demonstrated its independence and its willingness to protect the public from abuses of power.”
In March 2014, Thuli Madonsela, the Public Protector, reported to Parliament that some improvements made to President Zuma’s personal residence in Nkandla at government expense were unrelated to the President’s security. Madonsela concluded that the president should reimburse the government for the cost of the improvements. The Speaker of Parliament later insisted that the Public Protector’s order was not binding, and Parliament declared that the president was not liable for any of the expense.
The Constitutional Court ruling, in a case brought by the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Democratic Alliance found that the Public Prosecutor’s findings are binding.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.